July 19, 2008
Arrival in Chennai (Madras)
Today we flew from Hyderabad to Chennai. Chennai was called Madras under the British and I am guessing that Madras plaid is from here, I have seen a fair amount of plaid in the few minutes I have been here. Chennai is in the state of Tamil Nadu and they speak and write Tamil here instead of Hindi. It is on the southeast coast of India on the Bay of Bengal. Flying in we went out over the ocean and then turned around and landed in the city of over 10 million.
The Taj Hotel here is not quite as nice as the other Tajs but is still nice, don’t get me wrong. I have my own room here and there are hardwood floors and a giant king size bed. The other rooms we have had have two twin beds in them so this is going to be funny to sleep in such a huge bed. The food here (we always have breakfast and lunch in the hotel) is very extensive just like every other place and they have mango ice cream. It is delish!
Since Chennai is on the water we were really excited about possibly going to the beach tomorrow on our day off. (I need to mention at this point that the Lonely Planet guide said that it is hot as hell here, so when the guidebook uses those exact words, I was a little nervous since apparently I have acquired a sweating medical condition since getting here!) Well, we took an autorickshaw to the beach right after we got here, negotiated for us by the Indian-born American man in our group who speaks Tamil, so the hassle was minimal.
I was in a rickshaw with two teachers from California, Lisa and Chandra (all the Indian people think it is funny that her name is Chandra since that it an Indian name) and I think our rickshaw driver, who was a young guy, wanted to impress us with his insane driving. He was totally out of control and speeding everywhere as fast as he could go and I had to put my hand over my mouth to keep from screaming, which would then encourage him to drive even crazier! When we got to the beach, he turned into the parking lot and slammed right into a guy on a bike. They stood there and yelled at each other for a few minutes and then they shook hands and we drove on. I guess when you live in a place where there are constant fender benders, you can’t get too mad about a little one otherwise you might be mad all of the time. I took a video from inside the rickshaw as we were driving and I will try to upload it if it is not too big of a file. It is not working, I tried a bunch of times!
So, we got to the beach and walked the 1000 yards from the rickshaw to the water through some of the dirtiest sand I have ever seen. It was covered in shredded plastic bags
and other random trash. We got down to the water and it was the first beach I have ever been to where people are not laying all over the sand in swimsuits (except Oregon but the beach is freezing there)! Girls were splashing in the surf in their salwar kameez or saris and boys were running around in colored underwear. The current is super strong here and you can’t really swim, per se. We put our feet in and even then you can feel how strong the undertow (undertoad as my dad would say) is.